Hypochondria: Somatic Symptom Disorder

Alice Cordero

A condition once called Hypochondria now falls under the name Somatic Symptom Disorder. Somatic Symptom Disorder is characterized as extreme focus on physical symptoms. When one places extreme focus on physical symptoms – such as fatigue and pain- the individual usually experiences emotional distress and problems functioning in their daily lives.

Those diagnosed with somatic symptom or hypochondriasis disorder often consider the worst case scenarios about their symptoms, which often leads the individual to frequently seek medical care. The individual’s health concerns become such a crucial focus in their life that they in fact become disabled.

Symptoms of somatic symptom disorder may include:

  • Sensations in a specific area ( whether that be shortness of breath or pain) or more general sensations, like weakness and fatigue
  • Excessive thoughts, feelings, behaviors and worrying
  • Checking the body repeatedly for any sort of abnormalities

When one is diagnosed with somatic symptom disorder it is important to keep a positive outlook, because stress and negativity pave the way for the development of symptoms. Those with a history of substance abuse and high levels of sensitivity to pain are commonly seen with this condition.  Anxiety, depression, and OCD are conditions that are often diagnosed as accompanying somatic symptom disorder.

For somatic symptom disorder treatment normally involves cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness- based therapy, and medication such as antidepressants. With the proper treatment research has revealed that recovery is possible using the proper strategies to eliminate as much pain as possible.

If you or a loved one appears to be suffering from Somatic Symptom Disorder (Hypochondriasis), the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit us at http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/

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Neurofeedback

Leah Flanzman

There has recently been a great deal of discussion on a psychological treatment called neurofeedback. Neurofeedback assists people in consciously controlling their brain waves by attaching subjects to an EEG machine that extracts various brain-activity components and feeds them back to the patient.  The most common protocols used in neurofeedback training are alpha, beta, theta, and alpha/theta protocols.  The way that you select the placement of electrodes on a patients head depends on their specific brain functions and specific symptoms.  The goal is to allow the subject to assess their progress and adjust their brain waves accordingly to achieve optimal performance.  However, the effectiveness and practicality of the treatment is under debate.

According to the Basic and Clinical Neuroscience journal, many studies conducted on neurofeedback therapy reveal methodological limitations that question its effectiveness. For example, with the alpha treatment protocols, it remains unknown exactly how many treatment sessions are necessary before patients can consciously possess the ability to control their alpha waves.  Once an optimal performance is achieved, it’s difficult to study the long-term effects of these treatments, in other words how long the effects last without feedback.

The pros of neurofeedback are that it’s a safe and non-invasive procedure that has been proven effective in treating certain disorders such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, insomnia, drug addictions, and learning disabilities. Despite this, more scientific evidence of its effectiveness must be conducted before we can consider it a valid treatment.  It’s also important to keep in mind that it’s a very expensive procedure that is not covered by many insurance companies, and is very time consuming to complete.

If you or someone you know thinks they have ADHD, anxiety, depression, or drug addictions, or learning disabilities, the psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com for more information.

Why Dieting May Be Bad For You

Sam Kwok

As the summer months roll around, the amount of social media posts of swimsuit bodies increase. Many people believe that summer is the time for dieting to achieve a perfect body that would be praised by others on social media. To help people lose weight and get into shape, many diet plans have been developed which typically restricts those following the plan from specific food groups. Some of the most common diets are:

  • Keto: low carb, high protein
  • Raw: uncooked food
  • Vegan: no foods that come from animals (ex. Dairy, meat, honey)
  • Paleo: no foods cavemen would not have eaten (ex. Pasta, dairy)
  • Atkins: low carbs
  • Weight Watchers: company meal plan, premade food

Research has shown that healthy lifestyles have been linked to better mental health. Those who eat a balanced diet and exercise daily tend to be happier. Though these diet plans seem to encourage people to make healthy decisions, many of these plans are in fact, the very opposite of healthy as they do not promote a balanced diet. The National Heart Organization recommends that individuals eat approximately 6 servings of grains a day. Those on an Atkins and Keto diet typically eat 0-2 servings. Those following the raw food diet also lack a lot of nutrients that exist in cooked food. Plants have an extra layer within their cells known as cell walls which are meant to help the plant in providing protection and structural support. Some animals like pandas have the ability to break through this cell wall, but humans, do not. The only way for us to break down this cell wall to absorb nutrients is through cooking our vegetables.

There have also been cases of individuals who develop obsessions with diet fads and eventually develop eating disorders. Some common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. These disorders not only take a huge toll on the body physically, but they also affect the mind psychologically. When trying to get into shape, one should eat a balanced diet and exercise daily, yet many diet plans fail to include such topics. Having a stable sleep schedule as well as maintaining social relationships can affect weight as well as an individual’s esteem and should be taken into consideration when one is attempting to lose weight. Remember, you are what you eat- so eat healthy.

If you or a loved one appears to be suffering from an eating disorder, the licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. Visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/ for more information.

FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out

Leah Flanzman

Every college student or young adult has spent a Saturday night curled up on the couch in sweatpants with a pint of ice cream; scrolling through Instagram when they see their friends having the time of their lives out on the town.  At that moment, they are hit with a pang of regret on deciding to spend the night in.  Their mind immediately starts forming a million possibilities of jokes being formed and memories being made without them, and they instantly assume they are missing the greatest night ever.  This common phenomenon is called FOMO, or the fear of missing out.

In modern times, Millenials are connected to each other’s lives through their social media presence on platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook.  It has become seemingly impossible to remain in the dark about your friend’s whereabouts, which is why FOMO is such an emerging issue.  If you remained in ignorant bliss about what everybody in your phone was up to, there would be no fear of missing out, as the seed of wonder would never be planted.  FOMO triggers the thought that you’re the only person in the world not living their best life in that moment, and can be extremely damaging to your mental health.

FOMO can also be present in a situation where you have to choose between two options, as you cannot be two different places at once.  Let’s say you were invited to Sally’s party and Billy’s party on the same day.  You choose to go to Sally’s party but while you’re there, you see a friend who went to Billy’s party having the best time on their Snapchat story.  This causes a buildup of anxiety from the thought that you could be having more fun if you had made a different decision.  FOMO causes people to develop the attitude that something bigger and better is always around the corner, which is an unproductive, unhealthy mindset.

If you or someone you know is struggling with FOMO that is leading to anxiety, the psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

Part 2: Marijuana as Medicine

 

Marijuana Part 2: Marijuana as Medicine

Sam Kwok

Despite the growing use of medical marijuana, under the federal jurisdiction, it is still classified as a schedule 1 drug. Twenty-nine states have legalized medical marijuana; however, each state has its own legislature that creates lists of preapproved conditions that may be treated with marijuana. Though, when comparing these lists, one may notice that the severity of the conditions ranges drastically. For example, California, a state known to have very loose marijuana regulation laws, has a list that include more common conditions such as anorexia, anxiety, depression, migraines, or just “any debilitating illness …deemed appropriate by the physician.” New Jersey, which is considered a moderate state when examining marijuana regulations, has a list that excludes anxiety and depression, but includes more severe illnesses including terminal cancer, muscular dystrophy, and terminal disease where the physician has determined there is less than a year of life left. Despite the differences in severity, under the US law, medical marijuana patients, dispensaries, and government officials that do not enforce the federal laws are all criminals to some extent.

In the early 70’s Nixon began his famous “War on Drugs” campaign, which intended to keep the American public safe from hard drugs. One of these drugs, was marijuana. Almost 50 years later, the same laws are still upheld and little research has been done to update the data. Technology and scientific procedures have updates, so research and laws should be updated as well.

From the little data we do have, we know that CBD, the non-psychoactive ingredient of marijuana has medicinal effects. It is linked to the healthy release (unlike opiates) of dopamine and serotonin which are the “happiness” chemicals in our brain. This may be the reason why in some states, marijuana is used as a treatment for anxiety and depression. Children who suffer from severe forms of epilepsy have shown to have dramatic improvements with the introduction of CBD. The number of seizures that a child has may decrease drastically when treated with CBD oil. Marijuana is also known to help people undergoing chemotherapy treatment. It may not only help patients to regain their appetite through the reduction of nausea, but can also help reduce pain and reduce the body’s urge to regurgitate. Despite the potential of medical marijuana, further research is still barred by the government. Some suggest that the easiest way to completely legalize marijuana is if states vote to create a 28th amendment which would legalize marijuana, but that would still require ¾ of all states to vote in favor. Currently, 30 states have some laws which allow for marijuana to some extent (includes medical and recreational), but 8 more still need to reform for the possibility of a 28th amendment. The nation’s capital, Washington DC has already decriminalized the drug as well. With the current administration, marijuana will not be legalized federally. But with more and more people becoming aware of such issues, even the government will not be able to stop people from getting the medicine they need. It is clear in which direction the US is heading towards in this debate and it is only a matter of time until medical marijuana is legalized in all 50 states.

If you are struggling with substance abuse or any other kind of addiction, the psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity

By: Leah Flanzman

The human brain has the power to grow, mold, and adapt to the course of your life in order to best cater to your overall happiness and well-being. This concept is known as neuroplasticity, and occurs when the brain alters its physical structure and changes its circuits so we can better imagine, remember, feel, experience pain, dream, and learn.  Neuroplasticity is similar to the popular expression “it’s like riding a bike.”  Once you acquire a skill, your neurons kick into gear and remember their specific pathways so that each time this skill is performed, they are pre-programmed on what to do.  These pathways strengthen over time as new synapses form maximizing these skills.

Neuroplasticity can be a valuable tool for rewiring how your mind thinks and reacts to certain situations. It can foster increased happiness by retraining your brain to strengthen pathways that promote happiness as an alternative to worry or stress in light of certain situations.  The activities that you choose to do can alter the structure of your brain.  For example, if you are stuck in a funk, doing something positively stimulating for the brain will train it to associate the negative feelings with happier ones.  Your moldable brain will remember the pathways it took to achieve happiness and the next time you experience sadness, it will automatically kick into positivity gear.   Additionally, you can trick your brain into happiness pathways by imagining yourself in your desired mood.  Your brain lacks the capability to distinguish between imagination and reality so if you visualize a desired image of happiness long enough, your brain will believe it to be true and trigger the emotion.

When your brain fills up with neural connections that are relevant to your life, the ones that are unnecessary will begin to deteriorate. Your clever mind can form creative ways to suppress depressive thoughts and shine light on positive thoughts so your unproductive nature fades into the background.  Options that can help you in your quest to mold your brain towards greater happiness include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Mindfulness based cognitive therapy
  • Visualization
  • Relaxation
  • Hypnosis
  • Nurturance
  • Stimulation

If you or someone you know thinks they could benefit from therapy that aids in restructuring their brain to think positively, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit http://www.counselingpsychotherapynjny.com/.

 

Conduct Disorder

Conduct Disorder

By: Leah Flanzman

Conduct disorder is a behavioral disorder seen in children who display behaviors that deviate from societal norms and violate a number of social rules. Conduct disorder will typically present itself before the age of 16, and can have both genetic and environmental influences. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM IV-TR), this disorder is being increasingly diagnosed in more and more children throughout the United States. In the past few years, prevalence rates of children exhibiting symptoms of conduct disorder skyrocketed to as high as 10%.

Conduct disorder is typically divided into two types, childhood onset and adolescent onset, which are distinguished from one another by the age at which symptoms begin appearing. Childhood onset conduct disorder is diagnosed before 10 years of age, and adolescent onset is diagnosed if the symptoms arise after 10 years of age. Childhood onset is believed to be the more serious condition between the two and more resistant to treatment

The symptoms of conduct disorder can be broken down into four main categories. A child or adolescent is likely to have conduct disorder if they consistently display aggressive conduct, deceitful behavior, destructive behavior, or a violation of rules. Examples of aggressive conduct can include intimidating or bullying other children, physically harming people or animals with malicious intentions, or using a weapon. Deceitful behavior can be seen through lying, stealing, or breaking and entering.   Individuals will display destructive behaviors by intentionally destroying or vandalizing properties, and individuals will violate rules by skipping school, running away, or prematurely abusing drugs and alcohol.

A distinction lies in how the symptoms of conduct disorder are manifested between the genders, as it is more frequently diagnosed in boys. Boys are more likely to fight, steal, vandalize school property, and break school rules, whereas girls are more likely to lie, run away from home, use drugs, and engage in early sexual activity. Conduct disorder is unique in the fact that it is not always recognized as a mental illness, so treatment is commonly neglected. Early intervention for Conduct Disorder yields the greatest possibility for an improved long-term outcome so if symptoms begin to arise, seeking help immediately can be extremely beneficial.

If you or a person you know is struggling with conduct disorder, it may be beneficial to have them contact a mental health professional and receive therapy for their illnesses. The psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

Prescription Drugs and Side Effects

Prescription Drugs and their Side Effects

Emily Ramos

The truth of the matter is that many prescription drugs contain side effects. It is hard to predict whether or not an individual will experience side effects, it depends on how their body reacts to the drug. The good thing is that there are steps an individual can take to reduce the risks. If the side effects persist you can speak with your doctor who can prescribe a lower dosage or a different medication. DO NOT stop taking medication if you experience a side effect, always speak with your doctor. They might have to wean you off of the drug instead of stopping all together. Here’s how you can learn about possible side effects and how to avoid them:

  • Before getting prescribed medicine, ask your doctor about possible side effects that may occur. For example, if nausea is a side effect your doctor may recommend that you eat or drink before taking the medication.
  • Once you start taking medication take note of any symptoms that arise and tell your doctor about them. This will give your doctor a better understanding.
  • Other ways to prevent side effects are to make appropriate lifestyle changes. For example: if a medication causes you to gain weight you will have to pay more attention to your nutrition and incorporate exercise plans.

It may take a few trial and errors before your doctor is able to find a medication that works best for you. That is why it is crucial to be honest with your doctor before and after he or she prescribes medication.

If you or a person you know is struggling with medication, it may be beneficial to contact a mental health professional and receive therapy. The psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help. Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920. Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

 

Insomnia

insomnia.jpgInsomnia

Sonya Cheema

A typical adult gets between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night, but it varies from person to person. Those who struggle to get this amount of sleep may suffer from the sleep disorder, insomnia. Some people may experience acute insomnia, which lasts for a few days or weeks. Others may suffer from chronic insomnia, which can last a month or more. If you suspect you or a loved one has insomnia, look for these symptoms:

  • Difficulty falling asleep at night
  • Waking up during the night
  • Waking up too early
  • Not feeling rested after a night’s sleep
  • Daytime tiredness or sleepiness
  • Irritability, depression, or anxiety
  • Difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks, or remembering
  • Increased errors or accidents
  • Ongoing worries about sleep

If you or a loved one experience many of these symptoms, it may be wise to seek professional help. If serious enough, insomnia can drastically affect your everyday life. In the meantime, some tips that may help alleviate your insomnia are:

  • Keeping your bed time and wake time consistent day to day
  • Avoid or limit naps
  • Avoid or limit caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine
  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex
  • Create a relaxing night time ritual, such as taking a bath, reading, listening to music, etc.

If you or a person you know is struggling with insomnia, it may be beneficial to contact a mental health professional and receive therapy. The psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help. Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920. Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.

 

Source used:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355167

Marijuana Part 1: How does it work?

Marijuana Part 1: How does it work?

Sam Kwok

As the most commonly used illicit drug, marijuana has recently blossomed into an estimated $11 billion-dollar industry. Recently there has been a national shift towards the legalization of the drug, which has caused debates from both ends of the spectrum. But how does marijuana work?

Marijuana’s main psychoactive chemical is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, THC for short.  THC is produced by the cannabis plant and its molecular formula is C21H30O2. Anandamide, a naturally existing molecule in the brain, has the molecular formula C22H27NO2 meaning that the relative molecular weight and size of THC and anandamide are similar. Moreover, the 2 molecules have a similar structural layout which allows THC to imitate anandamide’s effects on the brain.

Anandamide is part of the endocannabinoid (EC) system in the body which helps neurons regulate the release of neurotransmitters- the brains way of sending and retrieving messages. Generally, cannabinoids affect the brain by slowing down the transmission of neurotransmitters. When marijuana is smoked, a large amount of THC enters the lungs and into the bloodstream where it can flow into the brain. THC then bonds to the same receptors anandamide normally would to slow down the activity of certain enzymes which reduces the number of neurotransmitters in the brain. Because anandamide does not naturally occur is large quantities, smoking THC overwhelms the brain, and it is this reaction that gives users that “high” feeling.

The other main chemical compound in marijuana is cannabidiol- known as CBD. CBD has been popularized due to its medicinal effects and much of the medical marijuana platform is built upon the usage it. Some laws allow, medical usage of CBD concentrates, but still consider THC as a schedule I drug. Though its molecular formula is identical to THC, it lacks key functional groups and effects the brain differently. This is why CBD has no psychoactive effects. CBD actually inhibits an enzyme used to activate receptors lowering the psychoactive effects of THC. While THC directly effects the brain by bonding to a receptor, CBD indirectly affects the brain by activating adenosine receptors. These receptors have been linked to having anti-anxiety effects and are known to also release dopamine, a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that is linked to pleasant feelings. CBD also activates serotonin receptors which are linked to benefiting sleep, appetite, anxiety, and depression issues.

Since marijuana is still illegal federally, there has been little research on long term effects on the brain. Several studies have shown that marijuana use during a child’s developing age may have irreversible damaging effects to the brain. Marijuana has also been known to have harmful effects when mixed with other drugs such as alcohol. Users of the drug have also been known to have a higher chance of becoming to addicted to other drugs as marijuana is a gateway drug. However, majority of the research are inconclusive and more research must be done to make definitive conclusions.

If you are struggling with substance abuse or any other kind of addiction, the psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit http://www.acenterfortherapy.com for more information.